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Your Business

News/Business. A focus on issues facing small business in the United States.

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Us 9, New York 5, John 2, Jeffrey 2, Christy 2, Steven 2, Paypal 2, Patrick 1, Blogger 1, J.j. Ramberg 1, Paul 1, Howehowell & Howell & Dunworth 1, Abn Abb 1, An American Express 1, Nfib 1, Kyle 1, Wa 1, Jo John 1, Marcy 1, Halloween 1,
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  MSNBC    Your Business    News/Business. A focus on issues  
   facing small business in the United States.  

    December 22, 2012
    2:30 - 3:00am PST  

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care, hiring, hurricanes. 2012 was a tumultuous year for
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american small business owners. will 2013 be better? plus a company that sells christmas pajamas tries to find ways to make money all year wrong. plus did they listen to our advice? that's all coming up next on this edition of "your business." hi, there, everyone.
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i'm jef e-mail jb i'm j.j. ramberg. 2012 was the business that took small center stage. the issues confronting small business owners. tax care, health care, hiring were the sources of two dpee baits between the two parties. the national federal of independent businesses' optimism was down 5.6 points to 87.5 points in november, the lowest since 2010. so what are small business owners concerned about for the coming year? three familiar faces to "your business" join us now. william. christy is the president and ceo of the national association of self-enemployed and with us is jo john. great to see you. we convinced john to come to new york this time.
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okay, john. i'm going to start with you since you made the trip to new york. we saw small business optimism index from nfib, bill's group has dropped what have you seen? >> we're seeing somewhat different. we did a poll. we did it with christy's organization. we now see unemployment at the lowest level it's been in four years and we're in no means out of the woods but there is glimmers of hope that seven of ten of the small businesses that we polled and this is a scientific across the country, not just our membership. seven out of ten said they're planning to hire and they're expecting businesses to grow in the next couple of years. so they're cautiously optimistic. they're very concerned about fiscal cliff, however, very concerned about money being taken out of, the core of the middle class of our economy. it truly fuels their businesses and they're looking for the congressman and president to step up and make sure, you know,
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we keep the middle-class programs that support keeping money in the economy. >> you talk about fiscal cliff. through so much of the election season we talk about uncertainty and people do not plan in the face of uncertainty. after that, once this is resolved in one way or another. what do you think small business owners will do, the ones that you speak with? >> i think coming in 2013, the big issues will be tax reform. even though we're addressing the fiscal cliff, there's a larger budget looming and tax reform will be a big component of that. what's it going to look like and i also think health reform. the health reform law is here to stay. 2013 is that drop dead date of when everything is supposed to be implemented so next year is going to be a critical year where we see everything plays out and what it means in terms of cost of coverage.
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>> okay. bill, so it was your survey or the nfib survey that showed that pessimism. we had you guys for a little while, but now you've gone back to where it was. what do you think will turn people's attitudes around, get them more optimistic again? >> well, i think we have to get consumers to be a little more optimistic. you notice the consumer optimism went into the tank as well last month, so if they're not spending it, of course, there's not much we can do. we'd be happy to hire a few more million people if we just had customers to take care of and that's really not the case. so we've got a very dour outlook. in fact, the november reading was the tenth lowest in our survey of our 350,000 members so we don't really have a very positive outlook for what's going to happen here. >> do you think, bill, this is because of uncertainty and so once things are resolved that
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might change or do you think it's because of something bigger? >> uncertainty is worse than having certainty. and then, of course, what's the certainty. you know, on the tax rate side, business people look at the after-tax return on investments on people thairchd businesses and we don't know what tax rate we're going to use there. we have huge uncertainty about the cost of labor from the health care law or bill. we don't know what that's going to be doing yet. >> when you polled people, they seem more optimistic. why? what's changed things? >> i think people have seen the light at the end of the tunnel. tl key is how do we get it resolved? we keep money in the hands of the consumer and the middle class. we do have to deal with the deficit problem and therefore the whole issue of whether we raise taxes on the upper two brackets has very little to do with small businesses because
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only 3% of the businesses actually pay with rates so we need target fiscal policies to keep money in the hands of consumers. you know, the payroll taxes affect people. the alternative middle-income tax needs to be fix and we need to make sure we don't cut spending programs that a lot of businesses rely on. >> for these people, where these two big issues don't really affect them, what are their concerns going forward? >> they're concerned with the fiscal cliff because the majority of americans pay taxes based on their individual income tax rates and they do want compromise. a majority of this segment, they make the household income under $250,000 mark that the pretty has put forth. what infuriates them is they have to make tough decisions every day and they can't
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understand why the policy makers can't make tough decisions to help move the economy forward and create certainty for businesses so things can continue to improve. >> you know, bill, what is your advise if you have any for small business owners going into 2013? is it invest in your company, this is the time to expand, or is it, hey, hunker down and save your cash? >> the fact that only three of the small businesses are going to be affected by the higher tax rates is really kind of misleading. if you look at it, they earn enough money, $250,000 or more to be affected by this tax hike and it is the small business sector of the economy that's really going to continue to push ahead. the headwinds are big but we'll grow the economy and somebody will claim credit for all of the hard work that the small businesses do out there. >> we've had debates like that
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many times on this program. your colleague, bill, about how many people, the health care and raises taxes affects. interestingly we were just speaking about a survey. we asked small business owners what do you care about most and taxes came fourth out of four things we talked about and number one was getting customers. and so while we sit here and debate taxes and big picture ideas rj really people want to get people through the door, spending money. i'm going to ask you the same question, john, that i just asked bill. what do you suggest for small business owners? is it a time to invest ins by or is it a time to stay back, hang onto your cash a little longer? >> you need to do it cautiously and it's important that government be there with all of us as we do that. it's very important that we have policies and programs that keep as much money as possible in the hands of the middle class, that we can't cut a lot of these
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programs that slated to be cut with the fiscal cliff right now and government needs to be taking an active role. for instarngs the clean energy sector of our economy. so that's, you know, where government can play a role. ultimately it's going to be up to the businesses themselves, business owners themselves and have the confidence to move forward, but there is a very positive role for government and they have to make decisions. is this particular policy decision going to directly affect the job creators, the small business owners in this country or not? >> thank you, guys, for ending 2012 with us. we will surely see you back at the end of 2013. hopefully you'll have a survey that shows us things have improved. thank as lot and happy new year. the holiday season brings in big consumer business across the nation but for seasonal businesses it's also a time that can make or break their company, so what can they do to spread sales more evenly throughout the
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year? well, one north carolina clothing line that specializes in holiday pajamas for the holiday family is figuring out how to do it. ♪ the pajama game is the game i'm in ♪ >> for this couple, thinking about christmas is thought of long before lights go up on the tree. >> we spend most of the year getting ready for christmas. >> neighbors and friends started out of amber's dining room in 2006. the idea was to create cute mother/daughter matching outfits. in the begins they had no idea that one of the outfits would do so much better than the others. >> we had dresses for mothers and daughters and pink shirts. however, the holiday line came as a surprise to us. we came up with a design, one
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very, merry snowman and matched it with cute pants and it sold like crazy. >> it sold like next crazy the next year and the year after that. soon they faced out everything but that holiday line. >> we had now about 15 holiday designs. we had on 15 every year. >> marcy's husband paul kingman who had a background in finance came on board to help. theish with being a business that earns ought of its revenue in one season is what about the rest of the year? >> being a seasonal business is really rif yk. it's tough to challenge that and not getting too concerned that you're building up this debt because you know the fourth quarter is coming. >> inventory is their biggest challenge and what takes up the majority of their on thes. >> we have 15 sizes within each design from baby, 3 to 6 months all the way up to adult 2-xl. >> they all agree they'd sleep
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better at night if they didn't have to rely so intensely on one part of the year. they've added another holiday, some successful, others not so much. >> we've tried some st. patrick's day, halloween, we've tried other, thanksgiving or other items that just didn't work as well. >> mother's day is big, mother/daughter items. father's day is hum for us. it's bigger than mother's day. >> but none come close to the profits from the fourth quarter so they're starting to create lines that are less focused. they go back to the plan. >> we have our smacks pajama line for preteens, teens, and college age which is a kiss me and also our mancave designs for men who like to hang around and lounge around togethers so try to access different customer pulls. >> they've added customization
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and personalization to bring in the family reunion group. >> and they wanted a dog design. >> amber is also a dedicated blogger. she regularly posts entries that establishes footsteps clothing as a line for families as a whole, not just a line of holiday pajamas? >> we're all about families and family togetherness so i blog about that. tips on how to enhance your family time or if you're very, very busy, how to get the most out of your family time. >> a lot of their down time is to make sure they're the first to come up that could remotely lead to a sale. >> most are not going online to search for matching shirts for my wife or daughter. it's searching for a mother's day present and amber focuses on getting those, looking on line to see perfect key words and doing the search engine
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optimization she needs to do so they find those items that and when they do get a big sale, they make sure the buyer feels appreciated. >> we have some marketing materials we leave with them and we really feel they do keep that marketing material and come back and come back and bookmark us on the web or call us and think of us at mother's day or father's day and other times of the year. >> the company has. found the perfect formula to completely break off the seasonal business title but they're still trying and are quite sure that eventually they're going to crack the code. >> i think our potential is unlimited because families are always looking for more ways to spend time together. we've dealt with this question a lot over the past few years and it's a hard one. how do you sustain a seasonable business all year round.
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let's head to the table. mike is a founder of sub siddian launch and the author of "the pumpkin plan." great to see you both. >> great to see you. >> great to be here. >> we've done this story on people who have haunted houses and people who run summer catches. it's hard. these people seem to be doing a good job trying to branch out but in the end they haven't quite cracked the code yet. what are they missing? >> i think they're trying to both be a manufacturer and retailer. you can't be masters of both. a retailer that focuses just on christmas could have an amazing pop-up store. thank ire struggling because they're doing two things at once. >> you can go this fafrmt what's the problem they're trying to solve. >> you want to be able to fill a
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need. they went into this krft mass p.j. thing. they got into it. it was hot. i think that's cool. they're trying to get back to their roots. they need to package it up for family night with puzzles or hole cocoa mix. get back to their core and i think that's what's interesting. >> their core didn't work, right? it didn't work nearly as well as this christmas or holiday theme so what's to say it will work going forward? >> it does work a little bit and it did work before, it's just not everything. for most retail businesses, about half of the business coming during the last quarter of the year. so they had a disproportionate period. find ways. maybe offer more incentives to buy the products ef s early in year. i would do that.
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give me half price off. christmas in july. there's a lot of things they could be doing. >> i have to disagree with that. i would not do christmas in july. i see love your family and then a man cave shot. i'm not going to take men to my man cave. >> they should focus. photography is the biggest one. go to fundraiserphotographers. >> packing it up. >> i want to go back to what you said about being a retailer and manufacturer. do you suggest they manufacture elsewhere? >> totally. the cost to manufacture is extensive. the cost to retail is extremely expensive. that's why you want to retail constantly. so pick one. i would take manufacturing, do it somewhere else and then become the world's best retailer. >> you know what i was thinking, too? they have a -- what they can do is what we always call here and we didn't make it up is ready,
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shoot, aim. basically they can try out new designs on their site without making them yet because inventory is so costly for them and you wouldn't want to do this on the holidays because you want people to buy this stuff. >> you could if it's customized, which it is. there are a lot of companies who have customized t-shirts. i can order them for a family, a retreat, for my office. it's not a bad way do it if they have a way to do it easy and turn it around quick. >> the idea would be testing things on your site before actually making them. see if they stick and then you're not holding thaul envenntry for it. >> one thing is a trend. there are certain businesses before you. you sell christmas. who sells in thanksgiving, who does halloween and rewind all around the circle toll the different businesses. they can tell you what's coming down the pike for you. >> okay. thanks so much, you guys. i hope we were helpful to them. they're in the middle of thes by
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elf season so they'll catch us in january. thanks a lot, you guys. inspiration can come from anywhere, so here now are five must-read books that don't necessarily fit into the business book genre but may give you a fresh outlook on the new year. one, "the power of habit." you probably have at least a few habits you'd like to change. this book will show you how. two, "so good they can't ignore you," the author sets to tell you following your passion is bad advice. instead, passion coming after you put in the hard work. number three, quiet." do you prefer to listen instead of speak or feel most creative when you ooher alone. this book will help you take advantage of and embrace those characteristics, not only yourself but your team. four, "no easy day:the mission about killing osama bin laden."
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this will take your team to a higher level. and number five, "hearts, smarts, guts, and luck." this book will help you understand your personal and the way you make decisions. when we come back, jeffrey and mike answer your year-end small business questions including how to choose the right marketing company and we check to see if the changes we suggested have brought them bigger profits. we've all had those moments. when you lost the thing you can't believe you lost. when what you just bought, just broke. or when you have a little trouble a long way from home... as an american express cardmember you can expect some help. but what you might not expect, is you can get all this
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with a prepaid card. spends like cash. feels like membership. over the past year our small business makeover team swooped in and helped some very unusual company, all in need of helping a company grow or struggle with a problem. we checked back with all of them to find out. ♪ are you ready for a new sensation ♪ >> back in march we visited with jeff and steven. they were considering shutting down their wedding dress business called fancy new york. sales were disappointing. our makeover team had a lot of
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suggestions. one of the biggest, a name change. the company's now called fancy bridle and things are picking up with the guidance of the business experts. the brothers moved their production from overseas. the dresses are now made at a competitive cost right down the street from their showroom in new york's garment industry. steven who was living abroad moved back to new york so they could work on the business together. they also took our social media advice and have embraced pinterest. introducing their tea-length dresses to a whole new audience. they just shipped their major shipment to major up-scale retail jeer in june we went to massachusetts where their contracting kpaerngs synergy total home was bleeding money. we worked with them on their name changing it to howehowell & howell & dunworth remodels and overhauled their website.
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unfortunately the economy in their area has not picked up and work has been sparse. so they've not had the money to advertise or file the llc papers. they've both had to hire themselves out for short day jobs to supplement their income and they're hoping that 2013 will be bet jeer and in september we paid a visit to erica hall, owner of abn abb oo ey's hall. she couldn't focus on growing her business. we helped her out by redecorating a room. now the inn's most popular. we redesigned her website too. she's using google analytics now and shifted advertising to sites which pay off. and erica signed up for an online booking system we recommended. she now spends less time on the phone and more time running her business. it also helped her experiment with different rates for different times of the year and
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gauge specific room popularity. all of this has results in an increase in bookings. it's time now to answer some of your business questions. jeffrey and mike are with us once again. the first one is a question about marketing your business. >> since i purchased this franchise, i've been bombarded from numerous companies promoting their marketing our services. how do you pick a good marketing company? >> well, the first question is do you pick a marketing company, right? and then how. >> yeah, i think you can and you should but you ask for referrals. most people ask for referrals. of course you given the three best. give your oldest, your newest, and someone who didn't. >> this guy's in the franchise. maybe you should go to the franchise network and ask those and go to the franchise owner aas
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well. you should go there first. >> yeah, that's a great idea and i started this again say dog you need one. >> absolutely. >> oftentimes -- do you have a budget for this and can they do it better than you can do it yourself? i think that's a real important question to ask yourself when you go into these meetings. moving on to a next one, this is an e-mail from kyle. he writes is there a better way to accept credit cards online than the traditional gateway? >> absolutely. look at paypal and all these other services. a million of them pop up. take it as a e-mail and use square or one of the other knock-offs and handle it manually. there's a lot of didn't ways. >> my answer is maybe. high-volume gateways are the preference to go. low volume, paypal, amazon, google, those are the better source. and now a question about dealing with a potential customer. >> how do i convince people that a web designer is an advertising
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person rather than an i.t. computer programmer? >> so this is an interesting question and it goes beyond what he's talking about which is how do you market your business, right? people have a preconceived idea about what you do, whatever it is, in this case, it's web design. how do you sell what you do? >> this is easy. you cannot change customers' perspectives. so you don't tell them, let me tell you what a web designer really is. give it a new label. you're a first impression designer, impact designer. that will get them saying i don't know what that is and you can point out the dichss. >> if they can't tell the difference between a web designer and i.t. person because to me they're two totally different things. what is he doing to stand out away from what he doesn't want from what he doesn't wa. i think that's real clear. he's showing off what he's doing. >> let me ask the question. is he talking to the right people?
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is he pitching to the right people. >> you would hope so. if he's not, don't you think you should be able to convey what you do and how you do? i think that's a real simple thing to answer and i just don't think he's got the story down. >> i like your idea also. change the name. >> change the name. you stand out from the pack. by the way, when you say i'm a first impression designer, you can say, of course, i do web design work, everybody does that. and you stand out more. >> and mine costs a little more. >> i like that. >> thank you for all that vice. very helpful. if any of you have a question, go to our website. the address is openenforum.com/yourbusiness. was you get there, hit the linch to ask a question. again that website is openforum.com/yourbusiness or you can e-mail your questions and comments. the address is yourbusiness@msnbc.com. also looking for ways to run your small business more
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efficiently? then check out our website of the week. mavenlink.com is an online project managing system. you can keep track of online prince georges, talk with them and track time and invoices and websites from your desktop orr cell phone. it interacts with google, quickbooks or paypal so you can streamline all in one place. to learn more about today's show, click on our website. it's openforum.com/yourbusiness. once you get there you'll find out all about your business to help your business grow. you can follow us on twitter. it's @msnbcbiz. we have been hansed to help you grow your business in 2012 and we have a lot more store for you in 2013 including game fi indication, managing your